Our Faith and Our Nation
Dear MarylandCru students, staff, alumni and friends,
We, as MarylandCru, publicly name and rebuke the sin of racism. It is indeed sin and shall not be married with Christendom, in any way. The killing of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and many more are unjust, senseless and an abomination before our creator, God. We would like to genuinely stand with and for our black brothers and sisters in the U.S. as people of color continue to be systematically oppressed based on the color of their skin. America is called the land of the free and yet for hundreds of years this system has been in place and needs to be called out and taken down. We actively choose to rebuke white supremacists and racism.
We pray, we grieve, we lament and we also recognize that these well intended steps are just the beginning to bringing about justice with actions.
…The following are some personal thoughts from Ryan Penley, MarylandCru Team Leader…
My family and I have just moved back “home” after a year of STINT with Cru in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. We have not been home a full week yet and all six of us are struggling with reentry stress. This is commonplace for those who have served with Cru Global Missions, but this season is on another level with “two pandemics” in America, as my friend Dr. Rayshawn Ray stated in a recent interview. (COVID and Racism).
The past three days have been filled with conversations with our neighbors and friends and students as we all watch racism boil up to the surface in our country. Honestly, I’m grateful for this season. As we all quarantine ourselves and have a time to slow down due to COVID, we are able to even further examine our own hearts and the heart of this nation together. It seems sovereign that the Lord would bring a season like this to help us individually and corporately assess our hearts.
I read a couple of books this year that have been quite impactful. “White Awake” by Daniel Hill and “Color of Compromise” by Jemar Tisby. (Both of these authors spoke at a conference for Cru leaders a couple of years ago. Their talks can be found here). Daniel Hill shared that white supremacy is a parasite. Parasites attach themselves to a host in order to live and thrive. The host in this case is the white evangelical church at large. Powerful imagery and a great time to see this and to rip off this parasite. No longer! We, as the church, need to ensure that this parasite does not attach itself to us; we need to rebuke the racism and call it out.
In “Color of Compromise”, I have learned much about our history, both as a nation and as a church. I have learned the need to speak up and to use my voice, especially when the voice of others can be drained and drowned out. For such a time as this, I choose in particular to sit humbly before my brothers and sisters of color and to stand for them and with them in this war.
And when I do not think I have adequate words, or rather, when I know that I do not have adequate words, it is better to say something rather than to sit in silence and passively allow another year in history to go before me as racism lives in our country. So, I speak up and speak out.
Yesterday, I sat on my front porch and read Proverbs 1-3 according the Bible reading plan for this year with the Bible Project. Some may think the Bible is old, outdated and irrelevant. I’ll share a small section with you and allow you to be the judge…
Proverbs 3:21–35 (bold sections are my highlights)
 My son, do not lose sight of these--
keep sound wisdom and discretion,
 and they will be life for your soul
and adornment for your neck.
 Then you will walk on your way securely,
and your foot will not stumble.
 If you lie down, you will not be afraid;
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
 Do not be afraid of sudden terror
or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes,
 for the LORD will be your confidence
and will keep your foot from being caught.
 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to do it.
 Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again,
tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.
 Do not plan evil against your neighbor,
who dwells trustingly beside you.
 Do not contend with a man for no reason,
when he has done you no harm.
 Do not envy a man of violence
and do not choose any of his ways,
 for the devious person is an abomination to the LORD,
but the upright are in his confidence.
 The LORD's curse is on the house of the wicked,
but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous.
 Toward the scorners he is scornful,
but to the humble he gives favor.
 The wise will inherit honor,
but fools get disgrace. (ESV)
A father gives wise words to a son and it is captured here in Proverbs 3. “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom…” (Proverbs 3:13). Wisdom is deeper than knowledge. Wisdom is knowing what to do with the knowledge. It instructs us on how to act and live. As a white man, I recognize that I have privilege and my friends of color have taught me that there is a time to be silent and to listen and a time to speak up. I honestly do not know what to say or what to do, but Proverbs 3 was quite helpful yesterday as I read and studied and meditated on this passage. In particular, verses 27-32…
Here are my takeaways… I have power to do good, I have power to speak up and to speak out. So, when it is within my power, do it! Far too long has the privileged majority withheld good and sat idly. Do not delay. Do not put it off until tomorrow. Do it now. The privileged majority has delayed and been passive for too long. I unintentionally have been a part of this and desire to change and repent.
I have watched the injustice of police brutality and white racist killing others. Verse 30, “do not contend with a man for no reason, when he has done you no harm.” The Bible does not promote this injustice but rather calls it out. These devious acts are an abomination to the Lord. George Floyd did no harm but was senselessly killed and he is just one of way too many examples. This is an abomination.
So now what? Truly, I do not know. But what I do know is that I need to pursue the Lord, to love my neighbor and actively engage in this war against racism in our country and to allow my faith to lead out in this battle, strongly and actively. Proverbs 3 is a good starting place for me as a father of four to impart wisdom to my kids and to continue to be a student before the Teacher, Jesus.
“Do not withhold good. Do not delay. Love your neighbor.” These are my three main takeaways from some quiet time with the Lord yesterday. This is a start.
Charlottesville to College Park
by: Brandon Edwards August 2017
To my Brothers and Sisters in these United States:
It is with great conviction that I address you in this very public, candid, and vulnerable letter. In years past, it would have behooved me to remain silent regarding the social climate of these United States. However, in light of the very recent, public, and controversial events in this nation, most recently the “ Charlotteville incident” as well as the assassination of 2nd Lt. Richard Collins III on the campus of my alma mater and ministry location, I can no longer stay in the seat of neutrality. As a campus minister, it is my duty to steward the position that I have been graciously granted; by speaking when my voice is needed, behaving in such a way that Jesus commands, as well as actively engaging is the process of continual sanctification. Although I cannot touch upon everything in such a letter, it will serve as a starting point to a greater and much needed course of conversation and action.
In 1776, the 2nd Continental Congress ushered in a new era with the following words:
“ When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth,’....... ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government”.
In 2017, as a member of the governed, it is my right and duty to report that there has come a moment in our history in which our form of government and ideologies have become progressively destructive to both its government and people; as it pertains to the racial and social climate of these United States. While I am not surprised by the recent events, I am disturbed that the United States is continuing in it's ever constant state of social degradation. To keep it simple, racism is alive and well and we, Americans, have done a wonderful job coddling it.
To understand my statements you must understand my history. Born to West Indian immigrants in Brooklyn NY, my life was shaped in diversity. As the case with many children, the concept of racism, and evils in the world went completely over my head. When my family moved to an affluent town in New Jersey, these concepts escaped me even more. Although racism was sporadically discussed at home, I never took it seriously, nor did I entertain the thought of its existence. I was under the impression that my family was stuck in their own ways and would not let the past be the past. To be honest, my family is very diverse in itself so the “American” outlook on life was not my primary lens. To further explain this disposition, as one of the only African American children in my schools; most of my friends were caucasian, I could not fathom that those who were my friends could be “racist”. In fact, I know and love many caucasian people who are what I would consider to be very good, respectable, and wholesome people. However, I could never reconcile one factor. I did not like my own skin nor those who looked like me. On the outside it was ok, I was able to talk and float between cultures, which now plays in my favor. Yet, for a long period of time I struggled with what W.E.B DuBois calls in his novel “The Souls of Black Folk” , a "double consciousness”. Du Bois describe this as:
“A peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness, an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder. The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife- this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He does not wish to Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He wouldn’t bleach his Negro blood in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of opportunity closed roughly in his face”.
I couldn't reconcile being my color, having my culture, and existing in my environment. I’ll put it this way only to drive the point home to some folk: I wasn’t “black” enough to be black, nor “white” enough be white. It wasn’t until I attended college when I started to be proud of my skin color and culture. I believe it was a divine moment in which my eyes were figuratively opened to the beauty of “blackness”. The beauty of being my skin color; in my environment. The beauty of being intricately designed by God with a culture and skin color for, as the book of Esther says, “ such a time as this”.
You might ask, how could this be possible in this day and age?
I’ll address this question, with more questions and examples from my life:
The simple answer is that there is an undoubtable implicit idea that African American people are inferior and evil. Racism. This ideology has always been and unfortunately still is interwoven in the fabric of this nation. It permeates throughout society, expressed in the language we use and traditions we partake in. These traditions are such that cause my African Americans brothers and sisters to appear to be inferior to, lower than, more evil and dangerous than my caucasian brothers and sisters. These traditions are interwoven into the laws, business practices, entertainment sources, behind the doors conversations, and educational systems and resources. Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said it like this:
“Somebody told a lie one day. They couched it in language. They made everything Black, ugly and evil. Look in your dictionaries and see the synonyms of the word Black. It’s always something degrading and low and sinister. Look at the word White, it’s always something pure, high and clean”.
It is this same ideology that allows a group of people to falsely presume that African American people are slothful, violent, and unintelligent. It is the ideology that allows a group of people to falsely proclaim that Mexicans are murderers and rapists. It is also the ideology that allows for large quantities of people in a nation to elect a leader who is unashamed of directly or indirectly promoting or enhancing these same ideals. For we know that every word in the dictionary and phrase we use has a history and a connotation to it. Therefore the words and phrases that we choose to use, often times are a reflection of those same connotations. The book of Proverbs states that, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” Our words either bring death or life and we will reap the result of our words. This applies ten times more to leaders. Once you hold a mantle you have a responsibility to steward your words and actions. For Jesus also said that we are defiled by what comes out of our mouths, however I digress for my objective is not to criticize, but to illuminate an ideology.
To those who say: “ Slavery and/or segregation was years ago…...” I understand your train of thought and feelings. At one time, I would have said the same thing. I understand that it is frustrating to constantly have an issue resurface over and over again. As a Christian campus minister, I will make a scriptural comparison in order to help you understand. In Matthew 15, Jesus comments to those who questioned his reasoning for breaking old traditions by quoting the prophet Isaiah saying, “ These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men”. In modern words; we can change our word choices, we can change the words in our laws, we can even change the names of groups and even use scripture to defend our ways of thinking however these are not what will breed the ultimate change and the harder change; a change of heart. You can call me your best friend, and say you see “no color”; while cursing me behind your words, and spitting on my face with your deeds. By living in your world that turns a blind eye to these issues, you may be ignoring my struggle. In doing such you can escape an acknowledgement of your errors. You are now free to live in denial. However, the hard reality is that you cannot fix what you won't acknowledge. This goes for everyone, including myself; no one can permanently escape reality, eventually it will catch up to you. What we refuse to address will most definitely come up again and again until we make the time to deal with it. So if you didn’t know, the reality is such, racism is alive in the United States and it is wrong.
So the question becomes, where do we go from here? How do we, as a nation, heal from where we are right now? I will not pretend like I have the answer; however this is my humble opinion. We must recognize two things. First, that there is problem. We all should identify and agree upon what the actual problem is, together, as a nation. Secondly, we must believe that reality says we have more in common than we differ on. Most of our differences lie in what we find more imperative in our own eyes, also known as our guiding principles. However at our core, we are humans; all of whom desire to be loved, and to love; to be known and to know. Black people want the same things as white people. If we would sit at what Dr. King called, “the table of brotherhood”, we would see this as reality. However, we must not solely “sit” at the table of brotherhood, we must truly fellowship as “brethren”. If we did, we would find that neither the “black experience” nor the “white experience” are monolithic. If we did, we would see that most black men and women are honorable, intelligent, law abiding citizens and that there are also a plethora of police officers who protect and serve with integrity. If we did, we would admit that not every tragedy revolves around race; however we would also have to admit that many conflicts in these United States humiliatingly carry racial undertones and are blatantly racially motivated, and be willing to call them out as such. Taking a seat at the table of brotherhood also means that we, as Apostle Paul says , “bear one anothers burdens”. Engaging in real relationship with another human being means that, there is a cost. Whether financial, or emotional it will cost you something. Period. As one powerful young woman from Coatesville, PA beautifully articulated in her Sweetly Candor blog, “Though lamenting for those who are in pain can get taxing, it is also great because it keeps us balanced and soft hearted”. As a Christian, I believe that every problem on earth is not solely physical, or emotional; at the core, its spiritual .The answer was, is , and always will be Jesus.
He is the solution. Jesus crossed generational, racial, gender and even religious barriers. He is the one who can soften hearts, change minds and bridge the gap of our imperfections. The issue is whether those who claim to be followers of Jesus will submit their opinions and agendas to His will and word. Whether we as the body of Christ will see to it that we fellowship at the table of brotherhood. Whether we truly lament with one another, and love one another despite our faults. Whether we will learn from one another in the midst of conflict, confusion, and pain; by engaging in the never ending process of sanctification. No one said it would be easy, but at the end of the day, it is worth it.
With Love, Conviction, & Gratitude,
GIVING Q&A WITH RYAN PENLEY